"Do to me as thou wouldst be done to:" The Pennsylvania-Maryland-Delaware land dispute and the failure of William Penn's "holy experiment"

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Fredrickson, Cole
Washburn University
Issue Date
May 2007
Alternative Title
In August 1681, William Markham, the Deputy Governor of Pennsylvania, delivered to the proprietor of Maryland, Lord Baltimore, William Penn's correspondence of April 12, 1681, one that began a turbulent dialogue between the two colonial proprietors over the boundaries of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Penn wrote: "It haveing graciously pleas'd the King upon divers good considerations, to make me a neighbour to Mary-land." He continued, "I only begg one thing...do to me as thou wouldst be done to." Penn believed that he had the upper hand, due to his relationship with the Stuarts, and continued to half-threateningly share: "I do so much depend upon the influence & prevalence the Kings goodness will have upon thee...believing that a great & prudent man, will always act with caution & obedience to the mind of his Prince." Penn concluded with his request that his "cousen & Deputy," Markham, be given "all dispatch possible in the business of the bounds," which began the long and drawn dispute to determine the boundaries of Pennsylvania and control over port access. The nature of this essay is to examine the documentary evidence surrounding the Pennsylvania and Maryland border dispute over New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties in present day Delaware, and to determine the impact of the conflict upon William Penn's "holy experiment."